Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Happy Birthday Peter Lawford!



If Peter Lawford were alive, he would be 88 today. Sadly, he died on Christmas Eve, 1984 at the age of 61. Thankfully, he has left a legacy full of charming films. I particularly enjoy Lawford's appearances in the great MGM Musicals. He appeared in many, despite not being particularly musically inclined. But, he could carry a tune, and perform a simple dance when needed.

This is particularly evident in "Good News", a 1947 musical from MGM. Co-starring with the cute-as-a-button, adorable June Allyson, they make a charming pair. The "Varsity Drag" finale, with Lawford and Allyson front and center, is a prime example of the wonderful ensemble numbers MGM turned out.

He also proves a worthy adversary to Fred Astaire's Don Hewes in the MGM classic "Easter Parade", where he vies for Hannah Brown's (played by screen legend Judy Garland) heart. While it is always clear that Garland and Astaire will (and should) end up together, Lawford's Jonathan is Peter at his most handsome and charming. He even shares a vocal duet with Garland, "Fella With an Umbrella".

Lawford had a diverse career while under contract to MGM in the 1940s, along with an array of female costars. Over the years, he fancied the likes of songbird Kathryn Grayson, swimmer Esther Williams, and lavender-eyed Elizabeth Taylor, and perky songstress Jane Powell, to name a few.

While Lawford is most known today because of his MGM movies, one of my personal favourites is a film he did at Columbia in 1954. "It Should Happen to You" paired him with one of the greatest comedic film actresses of all time, Judy Holliday. He, in classic Lawford style, is involved in a love triangle in this charming comedy. The man he competes with to win Holliday's heart? The legendary Jack Lemmon in his film debut.

Lawford's career from mid-1950s onward saw him frequently on television, and much less often on the big screen. But, us classic film watchers still remember and enjoy Lawford's big screen appearances.

Happy Birthday to you, Mr. Lawford!

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